touring panniers

Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
A Demented Corner of the North Cascades
I ran a brief experiment the last couple of days. Even though my ebike isn't at all set up as a touring bike I managed to pull off a quite excellent overnight on the bike. Rather than the improvised arrangement that I used for the tour (shopping bag panniers + stuff sacks + bungee cords) I'd rather find actual touring panniers -- with tops that can actually close.

The Ortlieb Back-Roller Classics seems to be the set to buy. Are there any other brands folks recommend?

I'm figuring on carrying at most 20lbs, and typically quite a bit less.
We sell a lot of Ortlieb panniers. You cannot beat the quality or the weatherproofness. You pay for this but they will last a long time and their repair service is outstanding
I think I need to take my bike over to REI (which is about 200 miles away...) and try them on. Since my rear rack is kind of funky I really want to make sure they can fit before I shell out the ducats for those fancy panniers.

If I was in the Bay Area I'd certainly run down to your shop to try them on. Unfortunately, according to Google Maps it is 920 miles from my front door to Union Square.

Do you have any opinion on the bottle cages Ortlieb sells that attach to the panniers? I'm short on bottle cages (only one) and would like more.
I'm afraid we have no experience with Ortlieb bottle cages.
I have Ortliebs, although not the same model. Very well built. And when they say waterproof, they mean waterproof. They are sturdy enough to sustain an incredible amount of weight. I've carried 25 kilos worth of gym weights in each pannier. The weak part is the handle: it's held by a nylon (?) strap which is retained by a screw. The strap will rip if you exceed a certain weight. For 5-10 kilos worth of groceries it's probably fine, but if you have to carry something heavier, don't pick up the bag with the handle. Instead pick it up with the strap used to close the pannier.

View attachment 16932

I suggest you do some frame size/foot size/pannier shape calculations before buying, in order to make sure that you don't hit the panniers with your shoes. A V-Shaped pannier towards the bottom is usually no problem. If it's box-shaped, then you might run into trouble if you have big feet and a small frame. To tell if the panniers will fit, cut out a piece of cardboard the same size as the panniers and fix it to your bike with some zipties. Then go riding for a bit. Even if the cardboard mockup is only 2 dimensional, it will give you an idea of whether it's going to work or not. You might think that you can resolve this problem by moving the bag backwards on the rack, but some racks won't allow you to do that because they have extra metal framework that prevents the panniers from clipping on. So you might want to check that out too.

I did a mockup below which is pretty bad quality, but it gives an idea. The red line is where the box-shaped panniers would be.

View attachment 16931
This is really good advice.
JayVee: that was awesome information and I really appreciate it.

I ride with shopping bag panniers that are about two inches longer and three inches shorter than the panniers I have been looking to buy. So I am pretty sure I will not have a problem about that. What I will probably do is order the panniers from REI and pick them up at the store. When I come to pick them up I will bring my bike and we can try them on right there. If they don't fit or can't fit then I can return them right then and there.

This morning I noticed that my shopping bag panniers have a volume of about 20L. This is approximately the volume of the Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus Panniers. By a happy coincidence, my heavier shopping pannier weighs 2lbs 7oz, or almost exactly what the Bike Packer Plus weighs.

Without trying too hard or being too organized, I could easily fit everything, including the fireproof bag for charging the battery and the charger, in two panniers. In practice, a bunch of stuff would go into a handlebar bag (probably this one That would free up quite a bit of room for grub.

All told it ran to just over 20lbs. But I didn't really try very hard to shave weight and could easily knock three or four pounds off of that weight without any discomfort.

Although when I think about it a bit, there is probably a way to go even lighter.

One of the challenges of touring with an electric bike is going to be charging the bike. The best time to charge the battery will be at night during my down-time when I am usually not on the road. That means I need to camp places where there are outlets. So typically that means RV Parks, State Parks, or certain USFS Campgrounds. Most of those tend to be noisy and crowded and not exactly a wilderness experience; Also, maintaining the security of my gear in such conditions will be a challenge.

When I look at the trips I would likely do this year, the most likely tours are on the Oregon or Washington Coast. It is quite plausible to tour there and ride sixty miles a day (or even less most of the time) and always sleep in a bed.

The more I think about it, for touring with current technology e-bikes, trying to camp will just make your trip less fun. Approximately 4.5 lbs of the gear I put together was camping gear. More importantly, the camping gear was over half of the volume. So I could get away with smaller and lighter panniers. That means I could realistically shoot for a rollaway weight (less food and water) of about 12lbs.
I talked to a friend who is into bikepacking and he said bike packers usually frown upon panniers for two big reasons: (1) it can be a challenge to keep a bike with full suspension, a rack, and panniers in one piece on a bumpy trail, (2) the profile is skinnier and the bike is less likely to get hung up on a narrow trail. There is a slight weight savings as well with the seat twinkie.

The downsides is that it can be much harder to pack and load the bike and it is also much more difficult to keep gear organized on a longer trip.
I have used Jandd panniers on every bike I’ve owned since 1992. High quality and parts are available. That’s a huge plus for me,

This is my latest evolution: two 14L compression stuff sacks and a smaller stuff sack with a daisy chain. I attach it to the rack with 120cm webbing straps. Total weight (including front bag and food) is about 5kg for an overnight. A couple of downsides: you can't really access the lower stuff sacks without taking the whole thing apart, you really need to stop after your first couple of miles and cinch down the straps, and it isn't at all weatherproof. I'm "solving" the weatherproofing problem by putting critical stuff in garbage bags. I could also put a garbage bag over the whole assembly and put a cargo net over that.

Probably the next step in the evolution is to get someone to make me a trunk bag.

I got a set of RosWheel panniers on ebay/amazon for like 28 bucks. they aren't the best, but they do the job for around town stuff.